Cleveland's Mike Brown, who just won the NBA's Coach of the Year award, did so by recognizing one salient fact: when LeBron James wants the Basketball, you give it to him. Everybody else, get out of the way. Call it The LeBron Rule.
James, the NBA's Most Valuable Player, scored 47 points in the Cavs' 97-82 Game 3 victory over the Hawks on Saturday in their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series. Statistical note: That's nearly half of his team's point total.
"That's what great players do," Brown said. "Great players sometimes get the Basketball and say, 'Get out of the way.' And they go win the game. That's what he did. ... He took the ball and put it in his hands and said he was going to score for us. I told him, 'OK.' I told everyone else, 'Let's defend.'"
James' line was a double-digit nightmare for the Hawks . His 47 points came on 15-for-25 shooting (5-for-10 on 3-pointers), to go with 12 rebounds and eight assists.
The Hawks had no answer. James did not allow it. The result was a 3-0 series lead with Game 4 tonight at Philips Arena. A sweep could well be at hand.
"I'm just a guy that takes what the defense gives me," James said. "If I see a hole here, I try to attack it. If the defense collapses, I kick it out and the shooters make shots. If I feel like I've got a hot hand, then I continue to go to it. [Saturday] was one of those times when I felt like I had a good hand going. I was able to get anywhere and everywhere I wanted to get on the floor."
James, for that matter, could have made his way into the Hawks' locker room and swiped the spare change from their pockets.
"At one point in the game, to me, [the Hawks ] were in a man [defense] but they were basically in a zone," Cavs guard Mo Williams said. "The players were basically looking at 'Bron. We already know what type of player 'Bron is. That defense won't win too many games against us."
James is averaging 36 points in this series and leads all players in playoff scoring with a 33.7-point average through seven games. By comparison, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are tied for Atlanta's highest postseason average at 16.2. Combined, Johnson and Smith don't match James' production.
Fact of the day: James has played 108 minutes in this series and scored 108 points.
"There is not a whole lot you can do," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Everyone says double him but ... he hit about eight, nine shots where you couldn't even get a double-team to him. They were way beyond the 3-point line. You're talking about trying to get [the ball] out of his hands, but you've got to do that at three-quarter court."
The Cavs have yet to lose in the postseason, after ousting Detroit in four games in Round 1. James is making Philips Arena his personal highlight studio.
"We kinda threw our offense out the window in the second half and said, 'Hey, big fella, take us home,'" Brown said. "He did."